Queensland cracks down on unsafe asbestos activity

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Tuesday, 10 September, 2019 - 09:30
Industry news
National News

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) is conducting an ongoing campaign targeting unsafe work practices associated with high-risk asbestos activities.

Over the past two years, WHSQ has launched 36 investigations into such activities, such as using high-pressure water on asbestos materials, demolishing structures without first removing the asbestos and removing asbestos from domestic premises without controls.

Action has also been taken over the removal of asbestos without an appropriate asbestos removal licence and illegal burying of asbestos waste.

In the past 12 months, WHSQ has cancelled five asbestos removal licences and suspended three others over unsafe and incompetent asbestos removal.

Another eight licence holders are currently being assessed.

Enforcement action has been taken in response to unsafe and incompetent work practices, such as inadequate controls to suppress airborne asbestos fibres, poor training and allowing unauthorised people to enter an asbestos removal area.

Other breaches include not notifying WHSQ of intended asbestos removal, storing asbestos waste at their own residence and leaving asbestos dust and debris after removal work has been completed.

The regulator said that ignoring asbestos laws and putting people at risk can result in stiff penalties, including on-the-spot fines, with clean-up costs exceeding $100,000.

The crackdown is ongoing, with a specialist asbestos team enforcing compliance with state laws, as well as educating employers and providing technical support to help address community asbestos concerns.

WHSQ has published an online summary of asbestos related licence sanctions, prosecutions and some of the on-the-spot fines.

“WHSQ makes no apologies for this tough approach as new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year – a legacy of past exposure,” the regulator said.

The ongoing campaign comes off the back of a recent research report which found that at least 699 people died during 2018 from the aggressive cancer mesothelioma, which is predominantly caused by asbestos exposure.

The report also found that 662 new diagnoses of mesothelioma have been recorded for 2018, with the age of the people diagnosed ranging from 22 to 101 years.